When Frugality Goes Too Far

Some of us come by thriftiness naturally. Because of my depression era, midwestern relatives, I’m genetically programed to avoid waste at all cost. In college, while other students were buying extravagant items like milkshakes and cheeseburgers, I was preparing ramen noodles in my hot pot. (and feeling ever so resourceful)

For the last nearly four decades of my life, I have embraced adventurous frugality with humor and sometimes even a bit of moral superiority. During the decade that we drove my un-airconditioned car while holding frozen wash clothes in our armpits, my husband and I were proud of our sweaty sheen when we arrived at our destination. This was after hours of heat exhaustion interrupted only by squirts of ice water that we kept in a squirt bottle in the cup holder.

Hygeia EnJoye Professional-Grade Breastpump Giveaway

The Hygeia Enjoye Professional-Grade Breastpump was invented with working moms and the environment in mind. I have to say that I would have loved to have one of these incredible machines, and one of you will be getting one for free very soon!

So just why is Hygeia EnJoye so unique? It actually has a device that records your child’s cry or cooing so that you can play it back while pumping to help you with let down.  I personally had to sprint into our school’s filing room and try hard to envision my baby’s faces so that I could produce milk in the allotted fifteen minutes I had to pump.  Hearing their voices would have been a huge help!

15 Minutes Outside: A Book Review and Giveaway

Books sit on my nightstand for weeks before they are ever cracked open, but I was aching to read 15 Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to Get Outside and Connect With Your Kids.

Why did this little gem get preferential treatment? The title alone tells me what I wish we were doing on a daily basis around here. It’s fine to skip the paper towels and embrace cloth diapers, but what do all those things mean to my kids if they don’t have an intimate relationship with the world outside their door?

The rain has been  relentless lately and we don’t seem to take the time to slip on our boots and brave the weather. We could save a stranded earthworm or find a budding pussy willow or perhaps slosh through a dozen puddles.

Easy, Kid-Approved Homemade Mac and Cheese: Done in 15 Minutes!

One day, when we were out of boxed mac and cheese,  I tossed a few ingredients together to discover the easiest and most delicious mac and cheese ever.

We were shelling out nearly two dollars a box on organic macaroni and cheese that used a powder for sauce, and this new version is much more delicious while costing just pennies per serving!


  • 1 cup macaroni noodles
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 3 Tbsp. sour cream
  • 1/2 Cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • ¼ Cup shredded parmesean cheese

Optional additions:

  • 1 Tbsp cream cheese
  • 1 Tbsp. Nutritional yeast sprinkled on top (You may or may not be able to get away with this.  My kids call it “flakey cheese and really think that it’s a yummy addition.  Older kids may challenge you on this!)
  • (more…)

What Should You Do With Drop-Side Cribs?

For many expectant families the new The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) ban on the manufacture of drop side cribs won’t be an issue. It’s easy to pick out a non-drop side crib and there are several eco-friendly option including the DaVinci Kalani Convertible Baby Crib or the DaVinci Richmond 4-in-1 Crib each of which go for just under $250.

Still, what about those of us who bought used cribs, or are still using drop side cribs that we bought for our first child? In The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, we suggest that families consider buying a used crib if it’s in excellent condition. Is that advice suddenly outdated? Should we all turn our cribs into sweet pea trellises and invest in another piece of furniture? What about cribs that we’re done using? Are they safe enough to be passed on to another family?

Nighttime Toilet Training Before Age Five: It’s Possible!

When my son still hadn’t potty trained through the night at age four, I wrote a post about trying to keep him dry through the night. (Most of which totally didn’t work at the time.) Many readers commented that bladder control for boys doesn’t developmentally happen until they’re older—possibly around age six.

Giving up altogether seemed rather strange to me. My post on The History of Potty Training in America, shared that potty training ages in this country have gone up across the board—partly because of the ease of disposables. If everyone waits to even attempt night training until their children are older, there are years of waste (and expense) that could be avoided with some effort.

Do You Have a Favorite Grocery Store?

Does your favorite supermarket or farmer’s market meet all your needs?  Mine doesn’t, but I love it nonetheless!

Trader Joe’s always delights me as a mother, an eater, a frugalista, and a tree hugger. The concept of a shop stocked with almost completely generic, high quality products is revolutionary!  Prices are usually reasonable, products are creative, but the abundance of packaging and the small serving sizes aren’t ideal.  Still, I do visit once a month or so to stock up on cereal, granola bars, and other prepared foods.  They aren’t always organic, but they aren’t packed with corn syrup and preservatives like other mainstream brands.

Stripping Cloth Diapers: Can You Avoid Detergent Build Up?

The funky odor.  The leaks.  Oh how I loathe detergent build up on cloth diapers!

With my first baby, I had no idea why his cloth diapers suddenly smelled like dirty sweat socks after being washed or why they refused to soak up even small amounts of liquid.

Then I learned how to use less detergent, I switched to greener detergents,(like Biokleen and, later, Country Save) and I found out how to strip diapers.

For us, one hot load with an extra rinse every few months totally does the trick.

Some people apparently have to strip diapers much more frequently and run them through several loads of hot water before the diapers work again.  But others don’t ever seem to need to strip diapers. (I’ve especially heard this from users of Charlie’s Soap Laundry Powder.)

Defending Play Dates: The Battle Hymn of a Stay-at-Home Mother

In Amy Chua’s recent book, The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, she notes that her children were never allowed to make play dates, ostensibly so that they could spend that time honing their academic and musical skills.

Now, there are many things about Tiger Mother that are gathering a fire storm of public criticism, but I choose to just focus on the importance of play dates. For my child? Sure. But honestly, they’re wonderful for me.

Unlike other professionals, stay-at-home parents have no supervisors, co-workers or job training. We are hurled into the trenches where we creatively deal with heaps of issues. Why is my child giving up naps? Should I start potty training her? Is it possible to somehow sneak vegetables into his diet? How do I do a time out in a restaurant?

The History of Potty Training in America

If you’ve read my recent post on the history of cloth diapering in America, you know that I spend a lot of time wondering how we as parents are influenced by current history–and what we can learn from the past.  Of course, like the history fanatic that I am, I found the information on potty training in America fascinating.

Early potty training in America was completely parent-centered and sometimes disturbingly so. In the early 1900s children were on strict elimination schedules and parents even used suppositories or enemas to enforce regularity. Toddlers were admonished or  physically punished for accidents.  Potty training usually began at six months of age.